Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Savoy

27 Feb 2011 by Tom Otley

BACKGROUND Originally opened in 1889, the Savoy has just undergone what it calls “the most ambitious hotel restoration in British history”, which saw it close for three years and have in excess of £100 million spent on it. Now a Fairmont hotel, it has made much of its rich history, even opening a museum space with exhibits and photos.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The main entrance is set back a little off the Strand, and you walk past the Savoy theatre to reach the porters and revolving doors. Check-in is diagonally to your left in a room to one side of the stairs, which leads down to the Thames Foyer. This has a new glass dome, a winter garden gazebo and a pianist, and is where afternoon tea is served. On your right is a Boodles jewellery store, and to the immediate left is the Savoy Grill. It’s an impressive area, and the staff weren’t snooty despite my scruffy bag. As before, there is a separate riverside entrance.Designer Pierre-Yves Rochon has retained much of the “old” Savoy, a mixture of Edwardian and art deco. In the front hall, the mahogany panelling has been stripped back and polished, while the details of Bertram Pegram’s frieze, An Idyll of a Golden Age, shine through now it has been painted white against a celadon background. Original mouldings, fixtures and fittings have been incorporated into Rochon’s design, and more than 400 pieces of furniture restored.

WHERE IS IT? On the Strand, a short walk from Covent Garden. Despite efforts the Strand is not the loveliest of places at night, but the Savoy’s wide range of food and beverage options and readily available taxis mean this should not be an issue.

ROOM FACILITIES The hotel was built at two distinct periods, and the steps leading between the two buildings can make getting to and from your room feel a bit of a trek. The 206 rooms and 62 suites are either Edwardian or art deco in style, and views range from the Thames to side street Savoy Hill, while others are inward facing. There are 38 “official” river view rooms, although I was impressed that you could still see it from some of the rooms not marketed (or marked up) as such. If you go for a “proper” river view, note that the noise from Victoria Embankment is considerable, but the hotel is to install new window seals by the summer. All have been refurbished and look fabulous, with the art deco rooms sporting original-style fan chairs and metal wastebins (or as Winston Churchill called them, large ashtrays). A lot of money has been spent on everything from Murano glass chandeliers and silk wall coverings to Italian linens and marble floors. All rooms have Mascioni bedlinen, twice-daily maid service, an LCD TV (mine kept flicking back momentarily to the menu), an iPod dock and digital radio, UK and US modems, a Bill Amberg workdesk, minibar, wired and wifi internet (£10 for 24 hours), a safe and daily newspapers. Bathrooms have marble Kohler tubs and Miller Harris toiletries.Nine “Personality” suites, named after previous guests, offer 24-hour butler service, unpacking and packing on arrival and departure, in-suite check-in, tea and coffee served on arrival, the complimentary pressing of two items, mineral water, fresh flowers, and Liberty sewing kits.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The River restaurant has reopened in an art deco style with views over Victoria Embankment Gardens and the Thames. It has a modern French menu and is where breakfast is served. The Savoy Grill is now under chef patron Stuart Gillies, of Gordon Ramsay Holdings, with classic Escoffier-inspired grill dishes of old. Next door is the American bar, with a great list of cocktails and a jazz pianist playing daily. New to the Savoy is the deco Beaufort bar, with a jet-black and burnished gold interior, and a good list of champagnes and cocktails.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are three banqueting spaces and six private rooms, the most historic being Pinafore, where Churchill founded his Other Club in 1911. A 24-hour business centre has three PCs with internet free for the first 15 minutes of use.Leisure facilities There is a spa and a “fitness gallery” with a pool and Technogym machines.

VERDICT Impressive. The Savoy was badly in need of investment and Fairmont has supplied it, emphasising its history without letting it stand in the way of some excellent upgrades. The butler service for suites is being rolled out across more of the rooms and the personal service makes this comfortable luxury.

Tom Otley

FACT FILE

  • HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 206 rooms and 62 suites across 18 categories.
  • ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The choice of distinct design themes – art deco or Edwardian – and so many different room shapes and categories means you can almost fashion your own personalised stay.
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from £354 for a Savoy Queen room.
  • CONTACT The Savoy, Strand; tel +44 (0)20 7836 4343; fairmont.com/savoy
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